July 10, 2015 / 7:49 AM / 2 years ago

Criminal as well as political violence threatens Ukraine: Poroshenko

KIEV (Reuters) - The threat of criminal violence has “significantly risen” in Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko said on Friday, describing the country as awash with trafficked weapons.

Members of the Ukrainian armed forces fire a grenade launcher, in response to what servicemen said were shots fired from the positions of fighters of the separatist self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, in the town of Avdiivka in Donetsk region, Ukraine, June 18, 2015. REUTERS/Maksim Levin

A shaky ceasefire has reduced fighting between Ukraine’s forces and pro-Russian rebels.

But at a meeting with Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, Poroshenko said criminals were benefiting from instability in Ukraine’s east, where more than 6,500 people have been killed and more than a million displaced in over a year of conflict.

“The level of guerrilla and terrorist threats in the regions outside the zone (of conflict) has significantly risen,” Poroshenko said.

He said weapons were being trafficked from the conflict zone. With police resources focused on the east, “there will be an increase in grievous and especially life-threatening crimes” in other parts of Ukraine, he said.

Poroshenko and the government hope a new police force will help combat widespread corruption in Ukraine, which is on the brink of bankruptcy after years of economic mismanagement.

Trained by U.S. and Canadian forces, the first 2,000 new recruits were sworn in at a ceremony at the weekend and pledged to forsake the bribes long associated with their job.

In a telephone call on Friday, Poroshenko agreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande that more effort needed to be made to completely implement a ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons, a spokesman for the German government said in a statement.

Spokesman Steffen Seibert said Poroshenko had stressed that he was prepared to try to reduce conflict around the coastal town of Shyrokyne and reach an agreement on the withdrawal of weapons with a caliber of less than 100 mm.

Reporting by Natalia Zinets; additional reporting by Michelle Martin in Berlin, writing by Elizabeth Piper,; editing by Alessandra Prentice/Ruth Pitchford

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